Ben Heineman Jr.: The Inside Story of Ferraro's 1984 Debate Prep

Roundup: Talking About History

[Ben Heineman Jr. has held top positions in government, law, and business. He is the author of High Performance with High Integrity.]

The moment of truth for vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro was her debate against George H.W. Bush on October 11, 1984.

How would she, a three-term member of Congress, stand up against the man who had been ambassador to China and the U.N, headed the CIA, and for the previous four years served as vice president of the United States?

The high command at the headquarters of presidential candidate Walter Mondale may have been worried. Her own campaign staff may have been concerned. But one person was utterly self-confident: the candidate herself.

I was fortunate to have worked closely with Geraldine Ferraro on this historic debate. In mid-September of 1984, the Mondale campaign asked Anne Wexler (former senior advisor to President Carter) and Bob Barnett (former Mondale Senate staffer and already a leading Washington lawyer) to organize a debate team to work with candidate Ferraro. As a former Department of Health, Education and Welfare assistant secretary for lost causes (planning and evaluation), I was asked to co-head domestic affairs prep with Rob Liberatore, then chief of staff to Minority Leader Robert Byrd. Madeleine Albright, former member of the National Security Council under Zbigniew Brezinski and then at Georgetown University, was the lead on foreign policy....

comments powered by Disqus